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Sunday, August 29, 2004

Wilson DID call Bush a liar

Powerline blog is looking for examples of Joe Wilson calling President Bush a deliberate liar. Here is one from Wilson's coming out party: his Meet the Press interview on 6/6/03. The relevant part of the Meet the Press transcript:

MS. MITCHELL: ... So was the White House misled? Were they not properly briefed on the fact that you had the previous February been there [to Niger] and that it [the Presiden't State of the Union reference to Iraqi efforts to buy uranium ore from Africa] wasn’t true?

AMB. WILSON: No. No. In actual fact, in my judgment, I have not seen the estimate either, but there were reports based upon my trip that were submitted to the appropriate officials. The question was asked of the CIA by the office of the vice president. The office of the vice president, I am absolutely convinced, received a very specific response to the question it asked and that response was based upon my trip out there.

MS. MITCHELL: So they knew months and months before they passed on these allegations that, in fact, that particular charge was not true. Do you think, based on all of this, that the intelligence was hyped?

AMB. WILSON: My judgment on this is that if they were referring to Niger when they were referring to uranium sales from Africa to Iraq, that information was erroneous and that they knew about it well ahead of both the publication of the British White Paper and the president’s State of the Union address.

"They" here refers to "the White House" which obviously includes President Bush, and Wilson is quite clearly calling "them" liars. Yes, he left some wiggle room to say that technically he did not call Bush himself a liar. Bush could just be the leader of a bunch of liars. Wilson also goes on to grant that the White House could know something he does not know. But the charge of lying WAS leveled, as seen above. "My judgement" says Wilson, is that the information "was erroneous" and "they knew about it well ahead."

This Meet the Press interview was conducted on July 6th, 2003, the same day Wilson published his slanderous disinformation in the NYT, which was the context for the interview. In the NYT piece, Wilson claimed that information he gathered on his investigatory trip to Niger debunked the British intelligence report, later included in the President's 2003 State of the Union address, that Iraq had tried to buy uranium ore from Niger.

CIA director George Tenet clarified on July 11th [5 days later] that Wilson's information had actually supported the British report. An excerpt from Tenet's statement:

In an effort to inquire about certain reports involving Niger, CIA's counter-proliferation experts, on their own initiative, asked an individual with ties to the region to make a visit to see what he could learn.

He reported back to us that one of the former Nigerian officials he met stated that he was unaware of any contract being signed between Niger and rogue states for the sale of uranium during his tenure in office.

The same former official also said that in June 1999 a businessman approached him and insisted that the former official meet with an Iraqi delegation to discuss "expanding commercial relations" between Iraq and Niger.

The former official interpreted the overture as an attempt to discuss uranium sales.
That is, Wilson confirmed the British report that Iraq was trying to purchase Uranium, but found some reason to be skeptical that the effort had been successful. If you look at Wilson's NYT piece, Wilson only reports half of his Niger discovery:

I spent the next eight days drinking sweet mint tea and meeting with dozens of people: current government officials, former government officials, people associated with the country's uranium business. It did not take long to conclude that it was highly doubtful that any such transaction had ever taken place.

He then cites the difficulties of consummating an illicit uranium deal and concludes:

In short, there's simply too much oversight over too small an industry for a sale to have transpired.

That is all Wilson said in his Times piece about what he found in Niger. He included his grounds for skepticism that uranium sales had been consummated, but he left out his discovery that the attempt to secure a deal had indeed been made. In addition to lying by omission, the disinformation in the Times piece is Wilson's pretence that grounds to be skeptical that the deal had been consummated was grounds for criticizing President Bush's State of the Union claim that Iraq "sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." Set aside for a moment that Wilson knew that Iraq HAD sought uranium. Where was the press on this disjoint? Seeking and getting are very diffent things. How could the press accept a denial that Iraq got uranium as a denial that uranium was sought?

The failure of the press to catch this disjoint could possibly be incompetence, but when it came out five days later in Tenet's statement that Wilson had witheld from his NYT piece the crucial information that he had actually confirmed the attempt to buy uranium, that HAD to be front page news. Instead it was buried, so well that when the 9/11 commission report backed up Tenet's information on Wilson this summer, even most conservatives were under the impression this exposure of Wilson as a liar was new. The fact is, there has been proof of it for over a year.

Note that Tenet was discrete, omitting Wilson's name from his press conference statement, probably in an attempt to comply with the law, but since Wilson had already outed himself as the operative who was sent to check out the Niger intelligence, it was still unambiguous that Tenet was refering to Wilson. In spite of this clear implication, it would seem that Tenet's discreteness gave the media the excuse they needed not to connect the obvious dots, and in the middle of a veritable firestorm of front page assertions that Bush lied, avoid acknowledging even in their back pages that Wilson's accusations of lying had already been exposed to themselves be lies.

UPDATE: WaPo's Howard Kurtz ran a Lexis search and found that the NYT ran 70 stories on Wilson since his original piece ran in their paper. They knew all along that he had lied on their pages, but they pretended he was credible right up until the 9/11 report came out.

Also, seems I am not the only one who remembers that Tenet exposed Wilson as a liar the week after Wilson came out in the NYT. Just One Minute has a post that notes both Tenet's remarks, and the NYT's softpedaling of Wilson's exposure as a fraud by the 9/11 Comission a year later. (Esp. the update.)

Allegedly Joe Wilson has admitted two other things in the press that are... not cricket.

On the one hand he allegedly gave a more detailed list of the people he ran into in Niger, which included visiting French dignitaries.

On the other hand he's on record as claiming the documents are fakes _before_ the CIA had the documents in their possession. He's recanted this story, but it was part of his first tour around the press screeching 'they're all lying, the documentation is fake.'

I wonder where he saw them, if he did.
"I wonder where he saw them, if he did."

Interesting question. Do you have a link to Wilson's meeting with French dignitaries? If there is a where and when, maybe it can be used to track down the names. It is clear that Wilson was willing to use disinformation to attack Bush in order to serve the Democrats. It is not a big leap from there to being a knowing tool of the French for the same purpose.
I found a WaPo link to the story about Wilson claiming to know the Niger Docs were fake without ever having seen them.


The Telegraph story about French responsibility, cited by Captain's Quarters tonite--



--says that the French agent (an Italian) was assembling his dossier of fake and real docs as early as 2000, so the French could have acted quickly to put something in Wilson's hands when Wilson went blabbing at coctail parties in Niger what he was looking for.
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